2020 has changed our academic landscape. Classes moved online. Classes meeting in the physical classroom must practice social distancing. It’s difficult for students to find conversational moments in class to get to know each other. How do we help our students connect to others while learning more about what they can bring to a group dynamic? How do we help our students prepare for group work in our classes?
As faculty, we understand the importance of students working together in groups in our classes:
One possible approach faculty members can use is breakout rooms online. Breakout rooms, also known as escape rooms, present groups of people with a combination of problems to solve that can require logical thinking, problem-solving skills, creative risk and communication. These rooms are typically in-person locations where participants are in a space together who must solve the problems in order to “break out” or “escape” within a specific time period.
UNCG’s Self Design Studio has been creating breakout room sessions in person for four years. Recently, they have been creating an online version of breakout rooms that faculty members can use during their synchronous meetings to use as group experiences for students to solve. The Self Design Studio can provide faculty access to existing breakout room scenarios, amend existing ones or create new experiences based on your needs.
To experience a breakout session, go to make.uncg.edu then “Workshops” to find their “Virtual Escape Room Registration” form. Experience an online breakout session yourself with others to see if this experience would work well for your students. If you want to use an existing breakout series or create your own based on the needs of your course, reach out to Matt Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UNCG faculty are beginning to explore new assessment methods, as some of our traditional classroom assessments need reinvention. As instructors, we strive to find assessments that challenge our students and ask them to apply the learning from our courses. One possible option for this type of assessment is asking students to create a multimedia presentation. Multimedia work challenges students to find new ways to express their understanding of the content beyond just text. Furthermore, by allowing students to decide how they want to use multimedia to express themselves, we provide our students with multiple means of expression via Universal Design for Learning principles.
Multimedia assignments can increase student engagement in your course as students explore the work of others and provide feedback. Remember, current students’ work can be great additions to future sections of your course, both as course content and samples of assignments. Approach students now about using their exemplary work in future courses.
Want to have your students create a multimedia presentation but you are not sure where to begin? Consider reaching out to UNCG’s Digital ACT studio to schedule a consultation to get started.
Fall 2020 introduced new course delivery methods to many UNCG faculty. Suddenly, face-to-face classes that were conversational and dynamic were moved online via Canvas and Zoom. The first concern of faculty was student engagement. How will I connect my students to each other so that they can learn from their peers? One solution embraced by UNCG faculty was synchronous online courses. Scheduled class meeting times were conducted live in Zoom instead of a UNCG classroom.
We all learned how to Zoom quickly thanks to the sudden remote learning semester of Spring 2020. Now, faculty had to master how to conduct multiple group conversations and report out their findings during these synchronous sessions.
One approach to group work online through synchronous sessions is using a combination of tools that keep students focused, set clear goals and give students a way to share their findings effectively. Cheryl Wicker, Clinical Assistant Professor in Family and Community Nursing uses Zoom for Breakout rooms and polling, PowerPoint slides, Google Documents and Google Jamboard to manage her group work online.
Group Work Online can be an engaging experience for your students but it requires some preparation before the class starts. Think about these strategies:
Have you ever thought during a zoom presentation that if you just had the whiteboard from your classroom handy that could explain a complex concept easier to your students? Did you find yourself frustrated with the built-in online whiteboard you were using? If so, UNCG faculty members have another option. It’s called the Lightboard, and it is located in the Production Suite at 1100 West Market Street.
The lightboard is a large, internally-lit piece of transparent glass that allows you to write using various fluorescent colors. A faculty member stands behind the glass looking directly at the camera for the presentation. Students can’t see the glass, but they can see the faculty member and what is written on the board.
UNCG faculty members can reserve time in this production suite and work with a technician to record one or more video clips for your class to review (link to schedule below).
Editing your video is a great tip that Dr. Kaplan shares in this edition of the video series, but there are instructors who use this technology at UNCG without editing. Dr. Insa Lawler, also from the Philosophy Department here at UNCG, states, “I use the Lightboard studio for all my online courses, but I don’t do any editing at all. My approach is to record short videos typically between 8 and 18 minutes in length. I typically do a couple of takes for a single video, but then I simply use the best version that is sent to me. I don’t cut out anything or add anything.”
Find the approach that works best for you. Adem Wheldon, who manages the Lightboard Studio, is a great resource to help you plan best how to use this technology.
Possible uses of the lightboard for instruction: